Thursday, December 16, 2010

Confidential cable: Vilma Espin's death a "dry run for other much-more-anticipated deaths"

This confidential cable reports the June 18, 2007, death of Raul Castro's wife, Vilma Espin. U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly writes that Espin served as "by default as a kind of first lady" since Fidel Castro's wife had no public role.
Parmly says Espin's death:
serves as a dry run for the other much-more-anticipated deaths in the ruling family, in terms of logistics and choreographed funeral activities.
Parmly also wonders if Raul Castro might sink into depression after Espin's death and drop out of sight. He says that while Fidel and Raul Castro are "mass murderers and cruel leaders," Raul Castro is also a "family man," making him more sensitive to depression.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07HAVANA591 2007-06-19 09:09 2010-12-15 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana

VZCZCXRO9446
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHUB #0591 1700906
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 190906Z JUN 07
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1862
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN PRIORITY 0129
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 0109
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0134
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUESDM/JTLO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUCOGCA/COMNAVBASE GUANTANAMO BAY CU PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 000591

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/19/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR CU
SUBJECT: RAUL CASTRO'S WIFE VILMA ESPIN DIES

Classified By: COM Michael Parmly; Reasons 1.4 (b/d)

¶1. (U) The Cuban regime has announced that Vilma Espin, wife
of acting Cuban dictator Raul Castro, died on Monday, June
¶18. The regime has declared Tuesday, June 18, a day of
mourning. Espin is one of the matriarchs and charter members
of the Cuban revolution, and without there ever being any
public role for Fidel Castro's wives or concubines, has
served by default as a kind of first lady. Some biographical
highlights:

-- Born April 7, 1930 in Santiago;
-- Studied chemistry at MIT in the early 1950s;
-- In the mid-1950s was part of the urban guerrilla movement
associated with Fidel Castro's "26 of July" organization;
-- Married Raul Castro in 1959, in the first year of the
Castro dictatorship;
-- Founded the Federation of Cuban Woman (FMC) in 1960, a
communist mass organization and instrument of totalitarian
rule;
-- Has been a member of the Politburo, Council of State, and
the National Assembly; clearly the highest ranking woman in
all these organizations.

¶2. (C) Espin has been terminally ill for the past two years
and out of public view. Her death serves as a dry run for
the other much-more-anticipated deaths in the ruling family,
in terms of logistics and choreographed funeral activities.
Havana has some roads closed off on June 19, most likely in
areas through which the funeral procession will pass.
Remembrance activities have been scheduled in various
provinces around the country, along with a full-scale
propaganda barrage. The message beamed out to Cuba and the
world is that Vilma Espin was a heroic and loyal follower of
Fidel Castro and the revolution, and only secondarily Raul
Castro's wife and member of the ruling family.

--------
COMMENT:
--------

¶3. (C) Although we doubt Fidel Castro cares very much about
the loss of Vilma Espin, or much else beyond his own personal
legacy, we expect that her death will have a significant
impact on Raul Castro. Yes, both Fidel and Raul Castro are
mass murderers and cruel leaders, but Raul always has had a
parallel reputation as a family man. He and Vilma Espin
were, much more than Fidel and any of his partners, the ones
concerned about the Castro family as a family. Some
reporting from when Fidel Castro became incapacitated last
July indicated that Raul Castro suffered from depression,
caused by the parallel terminal illnesses of his brother and
wife, and much more the latter than the former. For long
stretches of time he stayed completely out of public view.
Raul Castro and Vilma Espin were reported to have been
estranged over the years, but not entirely. Raul Castro
could lose his bearings over Espin's death, and return to
that same kind of private detachment, leaving Cuba even more
leaderless than has been the case during the past few months
as Fidel Castro has become more and more active.
PARMLY

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